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Since the days of Jimmy Carter, both Democratic and Republican presidents have vowed to curb the paper-shuffling. Printers, who do the heavy lifting when bureaucrats dream up new forms, say that Republicans tend to spawn defense-related forms while Democrats breed those tied to social programs. “As a Republican, I love it when the Dems run the White House and Congress,’’ said William A. Gindlesperger, a consultant to the commercial printing industry, “because they love to print.” –“The Form That Lets You Say, ‘More Forms, Please’,” Alison Leigh Cowan, The New York Times (via)
Scratch swerved the car around a cow, then a military vehicle equipped with a swivel gun. The speedometer clicked upward, and a man came into our sight, staggering down the edge of the road, carrying in his arms what appeared to be the limp body of a woman. The man shook his head at the passing traffic. Soon I could see that the woman’s head was bleeding, her eyes and mouth wide open, and her left hand dangling twisted and limp as if her sun-burnt skin were the only thing keeping it attached to her arm. Shouldn’t we stop? I wondered. We didn’t; no one did. Cars and trucks cut around the man and woman, kicking up tiny clouds of dust, and then past two crashed-up hatchbacks in a weedy ditch, where three men stood gesturing at the darkening sky. “Welcome to Kosovo,” Scratch said. –“The Wreckage of Intervention,” Christopher Stewart, The National
Whether democracy should be the utopia that all ‘developing’ societies aspire to be is a separate question altogether. (I think it should. The early, idealistic phase can be quite heady.) The question about life after democracy is addressed to those of us who already live in democracies, or in countries that pretend to be democracies. It isn’t meant to suggest that we lapse into older, discredited models of totalitarian or authoritarian governance. It’s meant to suggest that the system of representative democracy—too much representation, too little democracy—needs some structural adjustment. The question here, really, is what have we done to democracy? What have we turned it into? What happens once democracy has been used up? When it has been hollowed out and emptied of meaning? What happens when each of its institutions has metastasised into something dangerous? What happens now that democracy and the Free Market have fused into a single predatory organism with a thin, constricted imagination that revolves almost entirely around the idea of maximising profit? Is it possible to reverse this process? Can something that has mutated go back to being what it used to be? –“Is There Life After Democracy?” by Arundhati Roy, Dawn.com
Ratio of the average cost of a gallon of gas in Britain last September to that of a gallon of Starbucks coffee:
Her Majesty's Customs and Excise (London)/Starbucks Coffee Company (London)/Harper's research
The faculty of embarrassment was located in the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex by neurologists who made brain-damaged subjects sing along to “My Girl” and then listen to their own singing played back without musical accompaniment.
Greece evacuated 72,000 people from the town of Thessaloniki while an undetonated World War II–era bomb was excavated from beneath a gas station.
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"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."